Friday, September 5, 2014

Burnout, PTSD and RAD

Those who parent special needs children are going to jump at this title...at least I would if someone else were to post something like it. We are all looking for ways to get beyond the strain and fatigue of daily life with our  children all the while proving to those who have never walked in our shoes that we are normal but our circumstances are not! Living with a child who has RAD gave me secondary PTSD. John Houton a RAD specialist told me that in his line of work they have a saying that if the mother of the child is not burned out or isn't experiencing PTSD, the child doesn't have RAD. I looked up the definition of PTSD and it pretty well sums up life with RAD.

Posttraumatic stress disorder[note 1] (PTSD) may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as assaultwarfareserious injury, or threats of imminent death.[1] The diagnosis may be given when a group of symptoms, such as disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyperarousal, continue for more than a month after the occurrence of a traumatic event.[1]

Parenting children with RAD is traumatic. There are not many parents who live with a child who is deliberately trying to hurt them. It is for good reason the child is doing this, he is protecting himself against further pain but he is hurting the parent in the process. When your child yells for hours then instantly becomes a little angel when someone walks in the door or pushes, kicks and hits his siblings but will cuddle up to them with a book when someone outside of the family is around, it hurts. Your child refuses to get dressed for school, then doesn't have time to eat breakfast so you hand him a cookie on his way out the door and he glares at you and crumbles it under his shoe. When he gets to school he shyly stands beside his teacher making his tummy gurgle and tells her that mommy was to busy to get me any breakfast this morning and I am so hungry! Teacher gives him a cookie she has in her desk and he licks up every crumb and tells his teacher he wishes his mommy would make him such yummy cookies. He comes home and after shouting at you, throwing his shoes and breaking his sisters Lego creation, tells you that he wasn't hungry in school because his teacher gave him a cookie. Being a therapeutic mom, you smile and say, "I am glad you didn't have to go hungry." All the while watching the string of ants who are finishing off the remainder of the crumbs from the cookie YOU gave and he crushed. When this goes on day after day after day, you become tired, cynical and frustrated. Then you get a call from the teacher who sweetly (although you hear the judgement in her voice, after all what kind of mom is too busy to get her child breakfast???) tells you that children need breakfast in order to do their lessons  correctly. When telling a friend your woes she says, "Oh, all children do that! My son doesn't like my cookies either!" About then you start to feel all alone and wonder, am I going crazy?
   You need to be on high alert at all times to keep your child from manipulating you or worse, triangulating. Triangulation is when a child pits the adults in his life against one another. The adults (other than the parents) usually do not know when they are being played and fall head long for it. I am not blaming them either, I have done the same thing many times. There is a constant battle of whits going on, the child trying to outsmart mom/dad and get them to slip up and the parent trying to keep everyone safe, including the child who has RAD. You cannot "punish" these children because the have no bond with you and punishing them only makes them all the more sure you are the enemy. The child does need consequences, natural consequences if at all possible. Such as, you intentionally spilled your brothers drink on his clothing now you need to give him yours. Good chances are a well meaning person will come along and say, "I see your child doesn't have a drink. Aren't you thirsty buddy?" He looks up with eye's brimming with tears but a "thanks for helping me" look and say I am, mine spilled." So the well meaning person cheerily refills his cup, while he gives you a side long smirk.
   Bottle feed your AD (attachment disorder) child, cuddle him, he will make sure an elbow is poking you or his knee smacks you in the gut but even though he is uncomfortable with the closeness, he needs it to bond. Give him sweet candies, while you rock, rub his shoulder when you walk past and praise him when possible. Depends how sick your child is, only do these things under the care of a therapist as things will get worse as the child fights against allowing you to get close. For one of our children, I couldn't even say, "Well done" without having a total meltdown. The therapist told me I shall tell Daddy at the supper table that_________ had a good day, as a non confrontational means of praise but he couldn't even handle that. His self image was so distorted. So we stepped back a step further and when I saw him pick up his shoes I would say something like, "I am glad my boy is good at picking up his shoes." I wouldn't look at him, just comment in an off hand manner. He could take this praise in very teeny doses.
  Back to my topic, RAD is a topic near and dear to my heart so I can get long winded in a hurry. While you are doing "sweet" things for your child he will be fighting against you, peeing in his bedroom, letting his nose run and drip off his lip, burping, hanging on your skirts (if he is in control he doesn't mind being close) and talking nonstop while you attempt to help another child..... your therapeutic side knows you dare not lose your cool but the human side is slowly being twisted and bent until you become a victim of PTSD, just as your child is. Get therapy for yourself. I went to several therapists. Our sons therapist provided an excellent lisening ear. Usually the first half hour of his app was spent with her and I alone. Me a sobbing mess and she affirming my feelings and telling me this is perfectly normal, I am not going crazy. One day I was saying how inadequate I felt, she told me that she thinks I am fine but every parent must know when they have invested their limit in time, resources and effort into a child who is as sick as our son. When you reach that point, it is in no ones best interest to keep on trying because your child knows he has you right where he wants you and you are unable to stand anymore. In a sense he is glad he is in control but in another sense he is terrified. Guess what happens then? Everything falls apart. That is where we found ourselves in part when Braden was placed at TAP. The folks at The Attachment Place saved our family. At this point we still don't know when Braden will be coming home as there appears to be so much more than RAD going on. His therapist likened his brain to a swift current with all manner of things floating in it.
   I was listening to a video clip today where the speaker was talking about burnout in the work force. She said most times the people who burn out are over acheivers who do to much. They take on more and more projects and after awhile they find themselves weary all the time, then they begin to distance themselves from people/projects because they cannot handle the extra mental stimulation. Eventually they become angry and many go on to develop physical illness'. This is not the tiredness that comes from working extra hard for several weeks but the fatigue that accompanies months and years of stress and overdoing things either physically or mentally. Her research showed that someone who was burned out for 6 months needs at least 1-2 years to recover. Think of those who live in high stress levels for years! No wonder my body sometimes refused to move off the sofa. Add PTSD to the recipe and you are asking for trouble. I am slowly ever so slowly digging my way out of the pit. 6 months ago, going for groceries was all I could handle in one day. The rest of the day I rested and slept. Today I got groceries and made a meal to take to a friend, so obviously things are getting better. However I still need to be careful because overdoing it one day calls for several days on the sofa recuperating.
   I struggle though because my nature is to nurture others. When I am unable to do that I feel like I am not connected with the world.
  Here are a few tips on how to take care of yourself. I am writing these for myself as well because I tend to put my need's last, as does every mom.
-Exercise (I hate it)
-Learn to say no - at this point we go to family get togethers, church on Sunday and that is about it. In fact, we don't even make it to mid week Prayer meeting. When I begin to feel guilty Dean reminds me what his uncle told him, you have a ministry at home and that is your first priority.
-eat healthy
-Take some time to rest and be alone. I get up before my children so I can have my devotions when it is quiet
-get away for a week end. Yes, I know it is hard when you have troubled children. It brings back their feelings of abandonment, will you really come back? Deans family got us a week end at a cabin several years ago. They even provided the babysitting. That was the best thing they could have given us.
-connect with other moms who understand your struggles and won't think you are crazy. Those mom's who can laugh with you and cry with you
-Find a good therapist. When you have a child who is so incredibly needy you must make special effort to stay on level ground. Speaking from experience here. :)
-Don't blame yourself. You did not make the child this way, contrary what others may say or think.
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